Ezekiel’s Endless Summer

By Jay Engelbrecht

I tend to be skeptical, but the facts have convinced me. As new heat records continue to be set, decade after decade, as the evidence continues to mount, I can no longer deny that climate change is real.

When my dad was growing up, his family butchered a cow every November, then hung a side of beef outside, and ate off it all winter. The meat never spoiled. I live in the same area, but these days, I play football in short sleeves with my son on November afternoons.

Thirty years ago I helped a neighbor put up hay on a 103-degree day. I remember it for two reasons—we ate the best watermelon ever that evening, and that’s the hottest temperature I recall from my youth. This summer my kids played for weeks on end in hotter temperatures, and didn’t give it much thought.

This past March, more than 15,000 heat records were set. “The 12 months ending in June were the warmest 12 continuous months on record in the United States,” according to the article “Endless Summer” in the July 23, 2012, issue of Time. That same article said 3,215 daily high temperature records were set during June.

And July trumped June. From Maine to California, all across the continental United States, July’s average temperature of 77.6 was the hottest on record. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that around the globe, July 2012 was the 36th consecutive July with temperatures above the 20th-century average.

Globally speaking, unless you were born before 1976—the year Nadia Comaneci scored a perfect 10 at the Montreal Summer Olympics and the Blues Brothers debuted on Saturday Night Live—you’ve never experienced a cooler-than-average July.

In an editorial in The Guardian, Myles Allen, a professor in Oxford’s Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Planetary Physics Department, wrote:

I don’t ask anyone to believe in human influence on climate because I do, or because thousands of other scientists do. I ask them to look at the evidence. As [Albert] Einstein is said to have reacted to an article entitled One Hundred Scientists Against Einstein, “If I’m wrong, one would be enough.” The scientific case for human influence on climate is not a political opinion, made stronger simply by lots of people signing up. Nor is it a religious conviction, made stronger . . . if it is “genuinely held.” It is based on evidence.

Flipping the argument, Allen observed that if he “could come up with convincing evidence that greenhouse gas emissions do not cause dangerous climate change,” then he’d be on the fast track for a Nobel Prize.

 

‘Show Me!’

I tend to be skeptical, maybe because I live in Missouri, which is nicknamed the “Show-Me” state. But regarding climate change, from what I’ve read (and experienced), I’m now convinced.

NOAA reports that the decade from 2000 to 2010 was the warmest on record, and 2010 was tied with 2005 as the warmest year on record. It sure felt like it to me.

The United States Global Change Research Program concluded that while the Earth certainly goes through natural cycles of warming and cooling—often caused by changes related to the sun—solar energy has remained stable over the past 50 years. In my experience, when astronomers report there’s going to be an eclipse or a meteor shower or a rare lunar event, they’re right on the money. For that reason, I’ll take their word about the sun’s radiation patterns.

If the sun’s not causing the heightened warming, what is? Although not all climate scientists agree, the majority are convinced of two things: (1) the earth’s climate is changing, and (2) the most likely cause is man-made pollution.

Like I said, not all climatologists agree. In fact, according to an independent report detailed in The Guardian, only 97 percent of climatologists reached that conclusion.

Corporations such as General Electric, Duke Energy, and DuPont are working far beyond lip-service levels to reduce their emissions. Six years ago, a small group of Evangelical leaders, including Rick Warren and the president of Wheaton College, signed an Evangelical Climate Initiative. To my knowledge, none of them feels duped or has expressed regret.

In the early days of the National Football League, most coaches refused to let players drink water during even the hottest, most grueling practices. One lineman, knowing he’d be fined $500 (a huge amount at the time), drank a glass of lemonade right in front of his coach. He was promptly fined. Decades later the lineman laughed and said, “It was worth every penny.”

Now we know lack of water leads to dehydration, inhibiting performance.

And, likewise, now we know carbon dioxide contributes to warmer temperatures.

Back in the day, denying water to players wasn’t prohibited or even frowned upon. Coaches simply thought and acted like their peers. And for a Christian to deny climate change in this day and age, with all the evidence to support it—well, a Christian is merely following his Christian community peer group.

 

The Message and the Messengers

How much easier for Christians if President Ronald Reagan (whom I admire) had trumpeted environmental issues. But alas, the early warnings came from those we don’t have much use for—Hollywood stars and liberal politicians. Had Billy Graham urged me to “go green,” I’d have done it decades ago, but the warnings came from “the Al Gore crowd,” which made it hard to swallow.

For me, the time has come to swallow my pride for a combination of reasons. Year after year, meticulous carbon-dioxide-in-the-atmosphere measurements (known as the Keeling Curve) show that increased carbon dioxide levels and warmer temperatures go together like Michael Phelps and water.

Another personal reason is that, while I’ve longed to visit Glacier National Park since I was 18, I’ve never been. When the park opened a century ago, the area included 150 glaciers. Today, only 25 glaciers are left. I’ve decided not to put off my visit much longer.

A third reason is maple syrup, which I love, but the price keeps going up. Since New England winters aren’t as cold as they once were, sap starts flowing early, and the trees get tapped too soon. The problem goes far beyond rising prices. The higher heat and longer summers delay the first frost, which is needed to give trees their spectacular autumn color.

Believe me, I know climate change is controversial and lots of questions remain unanswered.

Here’s a Jeopardy answer: “This naturalist grew up attending a Campbell Restoration congregation, was a close friend of President Theodore Roosevelt, and worked to preserve Yosemite Valley and the majestic Sequoia groves of California.”

Jeopardy question: “Who is John Muir?”

Muir wrote, “God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools.”

 

Ezekiel’s Question . . . and Promise

Speaking of trees and fools, the prophet Ezekiel condemned Israel’s irresponsible shepherds by saying,

Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture? Must you also trample the rest of your pasture with your feet? Is it not enough for you to drink clear water? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet? Must my flock feed on what you have trampled and drink what you have muddied with your feet? (Ezekiel 34:18, 19).

I need to pollute less. I’m getting better about planning ahead to minimize car usage. I’m walking and biking more. I planted seven trees this past spring.

Sure, these are little things. We’re not called to save the planet, just cultivate our little patch. By way of reminder, the Bible is a comedy (things turn out well in the end) that begins and ends in a garden.

Seventy years ago, my grandmother, along with her sisters, waited for a troop train to pass through our little town. Each sister had baked an apple pie that each one handed to the first soldier she met. Apple pies didn’t win World War II, commitment did.

How proud we’ll be when our children and grandchildren speak of us—the people living at the onset of the 21st century—as committed, wise stewards.

Then the Old Testament prophecy will be fulfilled. “The trees will yield their fruit and the ground will yield its crops; the people will be secure in their land” (Ezekiel 34:27).

 

Jay Engelbrecht teaches Lifetime Wellness at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri.

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22 Comments

  1. November 27, 2012 at 7:57 am

    A conversation about how the Church should respond to issues of the environment is worth having. That we generally shun any air of environmentalism, (identified by the air’s wafting patchouli,) simply because of the messenger reveals how much we allow our politics to dictate our theology, rather than the other way around. It reminds me of the quote attributed to Mahatma Gandhi where he said “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians.” If people can come to Christ despite the Church, perhaps the Church can support the environment despite the politics.

  2. Ken Spurlock
    November 27, 2012 at 5:33 pm

    For those who are tempted to agree with the global warming advocates, I would direct your attention to Genesis 8::22.

    “As long as the earth endures,
    seedtime and harvest,
    cold and heat,
    summer and winter,
    day and night
    will never cease.”

    This is the word from the first and still most accurate weather forecaster.

  3. November 27, 2012 at 7:36 pm

    Great analysis! As a meteorologist it saddens / frustrates me when I see Christians reject science and pull out some Bible tex to prove that we are wrong. I see too many saying that the Earth was created for us, so we can do as we please. And they usually have a verse to justify that position…

  4. November 28, 2012 at 11:14 am

    I recently read an article by a scientist who is convinced that human activity has absolutely no bearing on global climate change. He notes that it’s changes in our sun which affect temperatures and climate on this planet, and they are cyclical without regard to our actions. Some decades warmth increases. Some decades it decreases. think the scientist is right and Al Gore is wrong. I note that one volcanic eruption can cause far more damage worldwide than all men manage to do whether right or wrong.

  5. Rob Dale
    November 28, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    Obviously the comments section of a blog is not the place to have a discussion, but Ken made my point just perfectly! Genesis 8:22 was not a weather forecast… And Ray’s point is valid – you can always find a scientist with an opinion. When that opinion is opposed by 97% of their peers, it should make you think!

  6. Loretta Park
    November 28, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    Full disclosure, I am a global warming (as in man-caused) skeptic. That said, I do believe the climate is changing. But haven’t we been keeping records for only the last 150 years? Surely, climate change is nothing new. The fossil record shows tropical vegetation lived at one time in now non-tropical areas. And if it is a cyclical phenomenon, it is nothing we can do anything about.

    But if it IS man-caused, ALL nations–especially China and India– would have to be on board for our efforts to have any effect. However, regarding the statement that 97% of the scientific community believes in man-caused global warming, that figure is surely open to debate. I have read that scientists are evenly divided on the issue, but perhaps that’s because I rely on a variety of news sources.

    I believe in taking care of our environment. I re-use tinfoil and wash out my used paper towels to the point of absurdity. I conserve water and remove spiders to the out-of-doors when I find them in my home. But could it be just mankind’s arrogance that allows us to believe that if we just do all the right things–or stop doing the wrong ones– we can control the climate?

  7. November 29, 2012 at 10:06 am

    Loretta – the 97% stands for the percent of climate experts that agree. When you throw in chemists, astronomers, sociologists, etc. then the number goes down to half. However I question how much work a geographer does with climate modeling 🙂

    And yes, the climate always goes through cycles. But this cycle is going off cycle.

  8. J. Tune
    November 29, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    Nicely handled Jay! Thanks!

  9. Phil Andrews
    November 29, 2012 at 8:58 pm

    Science.
    Is the climate changing? Yes . It always has and always will. Is the earth warming? We hope so. We are moving out of a Little Ice Age of the 19th century. It would be bad if it wasn’t getting warmer. 70% of the last 10,000 years were warmer than we have it now. Greenhouse effect is mostly from water vapor. 75% of the changes in the earth’s temperature is from changes in solar activity. Lots of calculations show man’s impact on greenhouse effect is no more than 1 percent.

    History.
    Seems to me man is stiil arrogant enough to think he is at the center of it all.

    Bible.
    Revelation says the earth will be destroyed someday.

    My question
    Is this a harbinger of what we can expect from The Standard?

  10. BJ Andrews
    November 29, 2012 at 9:43 pm

    To the degree the author call us to be good stewards of God’s world, his point is well-taken.
    However, the human mind is too precious a gift to be wasted on global warming claptrap. How short our memories (or how ignorant we are of history). Was it not the same group of experts who so earnestly warned us of global cooling in the 1970s?
    Mr. Dale, as one who believes in the Bible, I’m frustrated when people disregard the Bible because they are enchanted with trendy myths. While your questionable “97%” statistic may bully some to cower, even if true it simply reveals the kind of sloppy reasoning that leads one to buy into the “man-made” global warming myth. True scientific thinking and logic leads to one reasonable conclusion: the scientific data is too inadequate to come to a conclusion about man-made global warming.
    However, the Bible is clear that we need to be good stewards of God’s world. Why not leave it at this: clear Biblical teaching demands clear obedience?

  11. December 1, 2012 at 8:43 am

    When Christians claim science is nothing more than a trendy myth, we ensure that a whole generation of people will disregard the Bible. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that global warming is happening or not, so to use a verse in Genesis as “evidence” of a scientific conspiracy is ridiculous.

    My guess it that the people in this discussion who are sure that the evidence is too inadequate have not really looked at the evidence, but instead heard their favorite talk show host regurgitate it. That’s a sad commentary on society…

  12. Phil Andrews
    December 2, 2012 at 2:23 pm

    Rob,
    My guess you assume anyone who disagrees with you knows nothing of science.
    As a man of science, I’ve seen lots of junk science that folk with an agenda will try to call science.
    I’m guessing you are not aware of all the geologists and meteorologists and oceanographers who do not see things as you do. (I’ve had study in all three along the way.)
    I’m sure you know that our temperatures now are cooler now than all but 30% of last 10,000 years. I’m guessing you also know that man’s impact on the temperature is somewhere between 0.9% and 1% of all the factors involved.
    Also, what talk show host do you reference in your previous commentary?
    You may want to be careful who you accuse of not knowing science.

  13. Loretta Park
    December 3, 2012 at 12:22 pm

    Rob, thank you for your gracious response to my input. But my key point is, since we’ve been keeping records for only the last 150 years out of who-knows-how-many thousands of years (or hundreds of thousands..or..), we can’t really know if this cycle is going off-cycle. One possibility that has occurred to me that I haven’t seen mentioned yet: is God trying to get our attention with the extreme weather we’re seeing now? More than one person I’ve talked to thinks it’s a possibility…

  14. Phil Andrews
    December 4, 2012 at 10:17 pm

    I have known some meteorologists who use various models to predict the future and they call it weather forecasting. Sometimes their predictions are wrong.

  15. Rob Dale
    December 5, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    Mr. Andrews – I am not questioning your understanding of science. As a scientist, I’ve seen tons of junk science. But I cannot come up with one case in the past 100 years where all (or 97%) of the experts in a field worldwide come to the same agreement. It’s happening here.

    And you clearly do not understand the difference between weather computer models and climate computer models. Whoever told you that there is evidence to show human influence is at most 1% was wrong.

    Loretta – we do really know that we are off cycle. While actual thermometers have only been in place for a few hundred years, other forms of temperature recordkeeping (i.e. the natural type) don’t tell us exact temps but they do infer the cycle.

    I’m not sure I understand the connection between unruly weather and God trying to get our attention… If that was His purpose, you would think He would do it in a way that goes against predictions. Since climate change predictions state that storms would get worse, and if the current pattern is part of that worsening, He should choose a different angle 🙂

  16. Mike B.
    December 6, 2012 at 6:21 am

    I’m not here arguing for or against man-made global warming or climate change. But, I want to say…
    Scientific consensus proves nothing.
    According to Pew research, 97% of scientists accept evolution, with 87% specifying no role for a supreme being. The same poll showed 84% of scientists accepting man-made climate change, and another 10% accepting natural climate change. Both are significant numbers. If we must accept man-made global warming because a vast majority of scientists who believe in it say it is so, we would also have to accept atheistic evolution on the same grounds. Consensus proves nothing. It may be one piece of evidence (circumstantial evidence). Data could be flawed and interpretations of data could be driven by other factors (acceptance of a Creator would imply moral and religious responsibility; financial backing depends on certain outcomes; desiring approval and acceptance in one’s peer group; etc).
    We’ll have to direct our attention to the data and evidence itself. I would encourage including relevant biblical data, while being VERY careful in your hermeneutical approach and your application of the interpretation you have determined to be most likely.

  17. December 6, 2012 at 8:46 pm

    Consensus proves nothing, that is correct. By the same token, you can’t disprove science by using Bible verses.

    Accepting evolution or young Earth or ID has nothing to do with the Bible. Genesis is not a scientific explainer…

  18. Rob Dale
    December 7, 2012 at 8:31 am

    The important part to note is that climate change is not a salvation issue. The age of the Earth is not a salvation issue. When you force scientists to ignore their research and evidence because it doesn’t agree with the way you read the Bible, are you pushing them away from Jesus for the right reason? As Mr. Stanley likes to say – “It’s better to make a difference than to make a point.”

  19. Mike B.
    December 10, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    As Paul liked to say, “Let God be found true, though every man a liar.” If the truth pushes people away, I don’t consider myself at liberty to change or hide it. I’ll do what I can to reach someone for Christ, of course. But I won’t make Him out to be misrepresenting something in order to do it.

    With respect to the subject at hand, I do not believe the Bible speaks about it one way or the other. But the Bible does very clearly talk about some things that science says is wrong. Shall I discount God’s Word based on man’s? Creation, virgin birth, 3rd day resurrection, and so forth would all come into question if we decide that we shouldn’t “force scientists” (I generally don’t force anyone to accept anything, though it may be tempting at times – I’ll interpret this as “attempt to persuade scientists”) to go against research and current scientific opinion. Some of these are more crucial to our faith than others. God’s truth doesn’t change for man’s opinions. We have a responsibility to share “the whole counsel of God.”

    I hereby conclude my participation in this discussion.

    Blessings

  20. Phil Andrews
    December 11, 2012 at 7:25 pm

    I’m still wondering how this silly article fits with the mission of The Standard.

    I’m also wondering why my reply that had links to scientific literature was not listed in the above dialogue.

  21. December 12, 2012 at 11:40 am

    Because Christians have a habit of pulling a few verses out and trying to match them up against science. I don’t know why, but I do know it interferes with spreading the word of God. The Bible is not a science textbook. It’s the story of salvation.

  22. BJ Andrews
    December 5, 2013 at 9:48 pm

    This just in: “And now it’s global COOLING! Return of Arctic ice cap as it grows by 29% in a year”.
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2415191/And-global-COOLING-Return-Arctic-ice-cap-grows-29-year.html

    Now, shall we be good stewards of the creation because God is the Creator? Period.

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